A painting is the expression of ideas and emotions, with the creation of certain aesthetic qualities, in a two-dimensional visual language. The elements of this language—its shapes, lines, colours, tones, and textures—are used in various ways to produce sensations of volume, space, movement, and light on a flat surface.
An artist’s decision to use a particular medium, such as tempera, fresco, oil, acrylic, watercolour or other water-based paints, ink, gouache, encaustic, or casein, as well as the choice of a particular form, such as mural, easel, panel, miniature, manuscript illumination, scroll, screen or fan, panorama, or any of a variety of modern forms, is based on the sensuous qualities and the expressive possibilities and limitations of those options. The choices of the medium and the form, as well as the artist’s own technique, combine to realize a unique visual image.
Color, made up of hue, saturation, and value, dispersed over a surface is the essence of painting, just as pitch and rhythm are the essence of music.
The history of painting reaches back in time to artifacts and artwork created by pre-historic artists, and spans all cultures. It represents a continuous, though periodically disrupted, tradition from Antiquity.
Across cultures, continents, and millennia, the history of painting consists of an ongoing river of creativity that continues into the 21st century. Until the early 20th century it relied primarily on representational, religious and classical motifs, after which time more purely abstract and conceptual
approaches gained favor.
The oldest known paintings are approximately 40,000 years old, found in both the Franco-Cantabrian region in western Europe, and in the caves in the district of Maros (Sulawesi, Indonesia).
Developments in Eastern painting historically parallel those in Western painting, in general, a few centuries earlier. African art, Jewish art, Islamic art, Indonesian art, Indian art, Chinese art, and Japanese art each had significant influence on Western art, and vice versa.
Initially serving utilitarian purpose, followed by imperial, private, civic, and religious patronage, Eastern and Western painting later found audiences in the aristocracy and the middle class. From the Modern era, the Middle Ages through the Renaissance painters worked for the church and a wealthy aristocracy. Beginning with the Baroque era artists received private commissions from a more educated and prosperous middle class. Finally in the West the idea of “art for art’s sake” began to find expression in the work of the Romantic painters like Francisco de Goya, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner. The 19th century saw the rise of the commercial art gallery, which provided patronage in the 20th century.
The invention of photography had a major impact on painting. In the decades after the first photograph was produced in 1829, photographic processes improved and became more widely practiced, depriving painting of much of its historic purpose to provide an accurate record of the observable world. A series of art movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries—notably Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Dadaism—challenged the Renaissance view of the world. Eastern and African painting, however, continued a long history of stylization and did not undergo an equivalent transformation at the same time.
Vincent van Gogh was probably the best painter ever. He was a Dutch Post-Impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in Western art history. In a decade, he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings, most of which date from the last two years of his life. They include landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits, and are characterised by bold colours and dramatic, impulsive and expressive brushwork that contributed to the foundations of modern art. Not commercially successful, he struggled with severe depression and poverty, eventually leading to his suicide at age thirty-seven.
Widely considered to be the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa has delighted onlookers ever since it was painted in the early 1500s by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting is named for Lisa del Giocondo, a member of a wealthy family of Florence.
The world’s most expensive painting to sell at auction is Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450.3 million on November 15, 2017 at Christie’s. Shattering previous records and exceeding auction expectations, the sale underscored market demand for the artist’s rare auction appearances, and the competition among collectors to own a work of such caliber and distinction.
At Christie’s 2015 “Looking Forward to the Past” sale showcasing 20th-century art, Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) was estimated to take home $140 million by pre-auction speculations. After the bidding surpassed $120 million on the night of the sale, five bidders slowly drove the price forward, often by just $1 million at a time. Eventually, the painting was awarded to a phone bidder with Brett Gorvy, Christie’s international head of contemporary art, for $179.4 million. At the time, it was the highest price on record for an auctioned painting.
The longest painting measures 10,850 m (35,597 ft 1.32 in) and was achieved by Al Tayer Group (UAE), in Dubai, UAE, on 12 December 2015. 20,000 students participated in the 8 months campaign titled ‘I’m different just like you’ to support autism.
The largest painting measures 12,086.59 m² (130,099 ft²) and was completed by Hung Chi-Sung (Chinese Taipei) in Hualien, Chinese Taipei, on 21 June 2019.